Japan is actively holding so-called two-plus-two bilateral security talks among foreign and defense ministers with the United States and other countries with friendly relations.
Tokyo is aiming to boost deterrence through the talks, with China apparently in mind, which has been growing more assertive in the East China and South China seas.
The foreign and defense ministers of Japan and Britain held a videoconference on Feb. 3, Tokyo’s first two-plus-two talks this year. Japanese ministers held such sessions with their counterparts from the United States and Indonesia in March.
Last month, Japan held its first two-plus-two talks with Germany, the eighth country with which Tokyo has engaged in the two-plus-two framework.
The foreign and defense chiefs of Japan and the United States are planning to hold talks again this year.
“We’ve never held two-plus-two talks so frequently before,” a senior Japanese Defense Ministry official said.
Japan is increasingly alarmed by China’s growing military presence. Japan and the four countries it has held such talks with this year affirmed cooperation to realize a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region, an initiative advocated by Tokyo.
In a joint statement adopted at the March meeting, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, and U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressed their “serious concerns” over a new law in China that authorizes Chinese coast guard ships to use weapons against foreign vessels violating what Beijing considers to be its territory.
On the reason for the frequent two-plus-two talks, a senior official of the Foreign Ministry said: “We see a need to increase defense issues in conducting diplomacy. But security issues cannot be discussed fully by foreign ministers alone, so defense ministers are joining in such discussions.”
In the April two-plus-two talks, Japan and Germany agreed to make arrangements for the Self-Defense Forces and the German military to conduct joint drills when a German frigate is sent to the Indo-Pacific region this summer.
Japan wants European countries to increase their engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.
Increasingly concerned over the human rights situations in Hong Kong and China’s Xinjiang region, Europe is apparently starting to share concerns with Japan over China.
Japan is also stepping up efforts to strengthen its collaboration with India.
Japan-India two-plus-two talks set for April 24 were postponed due to a rapid spread of the coronavirus in the South Asian country. The two countries will work on rescheduling the session.
“We hope to hold candid discussions (with India), including on ways to deepen security and defense cooperation,” Motegi told a parliamentary committee meeting on April 23, stressing his eagerness to hold the bilateral ministerial talks at an early date.
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